At last it’s March. Spring is just around the corner and your garden will be stirring from its winter slumber. Hopefully you will have had a super display of early daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses. Magnolias will be in bud, and green shoots will be appearing on your pear and apple trees. Deciduous shrubs are getting ready to burst into leaf and crocosmia are sending up their pale green shoots. Your garden is ready to go and you will need to take part in the preparations.
Let’s start with your lawn. On a dry, sunny day take the opportunity to give your lawn its first trim of the year. Set the blade high so that the grass can build up its strength for the year ahead. Don’t mow where there are bulbs – you should let the bulb foliage die right back before mowing in those areas. Any damage to the edges of your lawn can be repaired now either by returfing or resowing. If you can, think about leaving a part of your lawn to grow as a wild area. March is also a good month to prepare the ground for a new lawn. Clear the area, incorporate compost and level the surface of the soil. You can then either sow or use turf to create your new lawn.
March is the latest you can successfully plant bare-rooted trees and shrubs. Ideally this should have been done in February, but if you can get them planted before the weather warms up, so much the better. The colourful winter shrubs like willow and cornus can be pruned now to give them time to grow new branches for next winter.
On a fine day, check all your flower beds and borders. Inevitably, you will have lost some plants to frost. This winter has been particularly cold and frosty, so more plants may have succumbed. Dig out the dead plants and make a note of any other obvious spaces that need to be planted up. March is a good time to move any perennials and to plant up gaps with new plants. Most hardy perennials will be just showing their new shoots so don’t wait too long. Plants like Japanese anemones, rudbeckias and heleniums can be moved without doing them any harm.
Deadhead any daffodils that have finished flowering but leave the foliage untouched. As it dies back it will draw goodness into the bulb ready for next year. Wait until the foliage has turned brown and shrivelled up before removing it. Snowdrops that have finished flowering can be dug up, split and replanted. This is called ‘in the green’ and is the best way of increasing your stock of snowdrops. Winter aconites can be treated in the same way. Primroses and polyanthus can also be divided and replanted once they have finished flowering.
Check established plants that might have suffered from frost. Plants like heucheras and scabious might be looking sad and would appreciate a bit of TLC. Clean around them, gently fork the ground to break up the top of the soil. Mulch with fresh compost and take away any dead leaves. Not only do the plants look better, they will feel better too. Perennials that are shooting from the base like phlox or some herbs can be propagated from basal cuttings now. This is an easy way of increasing your stock of these plants.
March is a good month to tidy up your strawberry bed and to plant new strawberry plants. Young fruit bushes and fruit trees will benefit from a mulch of good garden compost.
In the vegetable garden March is a good month to plant onion sets, plant potatoes and plant out the broad beans you sowed earlier in the winter. Lettuce and mixed salad leaves can be sown in the greenhouse. Those vegetable seeds that need early warmth to germinate can be sown in pots and placed on a warm windowsill if you do not have a heated greenhouse. Warm up the soil by covering with cloches or mini polytunnels. When the weather starts to warm up in a few weeks time, seeds and seedlings can be planted under protection and will mature earlier.
Remove any greenhouse insulation you fitted in the autumn, and if necessary give the glass a good wash to remove algae. This will let in the maximum sunlight.
March can be a month of extremes in weather, so make sure nothing can be blown away or damaged by high winds. Tender plants will need protection during March and also some plants, especially newly planted shrubs, will need staking to avoid wind-rock.